What Works in Ensuring Long-Term Recovery?

Happy sober friends after a game

For anyone who has a family member or loved one who is addicted or is in recovery, the big question is this. “How can we guarantee long-term recovery?”

We know how dangerous relapses are. We know about the ever-present risk of an overdose. We know that addiction is a life or death matter. We know that, particularly in this day and age, drug use is extremely dangerous. Even just one incident of experimenting with drugs can get one hooked. Just one episode of use can also lead to a fatal overdose.

Given the severity of the 21st-century addiction scene, how can we give our loved ones the best chances they can get for long and healthy life in recovery?

The Best Recovery is Long-Term Recovery

It all starts with the treatment that a recovering addict receives. The longer our country faces its ongoing addiction epidemic, the more we begin to see that long-term care is crucial in fostering a relapse-free lifestyle for recovering addicts. Specifically, recovering addicts need longer stays in treatment programs followed up with ongoing support and care post-treatment.

U.S. News reported on a study that examined the issue of opioid addiction in the U.S., and how long-term care was an addict’s best bet for achieving relapse-free living. Lauren Hoffman, a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital's Recovery Research Institute, commented on the findings.

“The study implies that perhaps those who have an opioid problem might need to utilize more services or utilize services for a longer period of time to maintain recovery and achieve recovery durations beyond one year.”

Hoffman went on to say that, “Recovery doesn’t look the same for everyone. It’s going to vary by substance, at the very least. Those who suffer from an opioid problem might need prolonged clinical care or additional recovery support to maintain recovery in the long term.”

That study was initially published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. The researchers arrived at their conclusions by surveying 1.2 million recovering addicts. Each recovering addict had found their unique methods for achieving success in sobriety. But the common denominator in almost all of them was that they had had access to long-term care in addiction treatment, along with an ongoing recovery plan once they had completed treatment at a residential center.

Quoting the study writings, “An estimated 1.2 million American adults report resolving an opioid problem. Given the service use outcomes, early-recovery may require encouragement to utilize additional or more intensive services to achieve longer-term recovery.

It’s a logical statement to make. The more help that a recovering addict can get in recovery the better chances he has of achieving and maintaining long-term sobriety. That makes it clear to the rest of us that we should do everything we can to obtain ongoing help and support for our recovering loved ones.

Ongoing Help and Support

Family support – dad gives fist bump

Helping a loved one overcome a drug habit does not end when we drop our loved one off at a treatment center. In fact, that is where it begins.

Our support of our loved one will be needed in the months following his graduation from a long-term recovery center. We have to understand that, while a treatment program helps recovering addicts create and maintain a new life, the individual and his support group must continue to foster the morals, lifestyle changes, healthy coping strategies, problem-solving, and other tools that the individual learned while in treatment.

Going to rehab is not like flicking a switch. One does not walk in “diseased” and walk out “cured.” Rehab centers put recovering addicts on the right path, and rehabs give addicts the tools to walk that path. But the recovering addict still must put one foot in front of the other and actually walk the path.

As the family member or loved one of an addict, your task in the post-treatment stage is to ensure that your loved one continues to follow the tenets of drug-free living. Making sure your loved one has access to a long-term recovery plan will help.

Recovery is something that people have to work at, every day. Recovering addicts attain the tools they need to get sober while in rehab. But it is the months and years following treatment where they now must use those tools.

Ongoing support and help is crucial. Because several years of an addiction habit will not vanish overnight, even in the best of long-term recovery centers, recovering addicts need continuing support and help in the months following the completion of a treatment program. That is an excellent time to get your loved one involved in healthy and positive activities and endeavors. Go with your loved one to church, get them excited about hobbies, help them get a new job or get back in school, etc. Remember, getting clean isn’t just about ceasing drug use. It’s about making a complete change in one’s lifestyle. It’s about changing how one spends one’s time every day.

Seeking Help for an Addicted Loved One

For nearly half a century, Narconon has saved those who struggled with seemingly unbeatable addictions. The goal of Narconon is an entirely drug-free life. The Narconon program addresses this in its clients by offering a unique series of treatment techniques. Furthermore, Narconon offers residential care that is longer than most other programs, giving those who struggle with addiction the time they need to address the nuances and intricacies of addiction.

If your family member or loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol habit, do your best to get them into a residential drug treatment center. Do this as soon as possible. There’s a lot that goes into helping people ensure their long-term recovery. Without a doubt, seeking the assistance of a residential program is not only the first step, it is the most crucial step.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.